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Error codes being displayed on gatelines?

So here we are, plugging away our new App – Oyster Errors – where you can look up what the mysterious numbers mean on barriers if it beeps at you with a problem, when we’ve had a report in from the field, that some gates are now starting to show the full error to explain what it means, and not just the number!

Error 21

Error 21

This from Jonathan Rothwell who sent in this picture from the gateline at Willesden Green, where error code 21 is indeed ‘Card used already’.  It’s the only place we’ve been made aware of it so far, but we’ll keep an eye out to see if it spreads to the rest of the network.


11 Jul 14

Contactless Card

contactlesscardSo it was almost TWO MONTHS ago now that we signed up for the Contactless Payment Pilot on tube trains, back on the 13th May.

At the time it said that the membership card would follow in the next few days, and that you should carry it with you (in case a revenue inspector asks you for a valid ticket) when you travel.   So ‘a few days’ it seems turned into 55 days for us, during which we’ve been using a regular Oyster card.

Contactless Membership Card

Contactless Membership Card

They do give you a chance to give your feedback though (which we will) by pointing out that a separate market research company will be in touch when I join the pilot (what this week, or two months ago?) and then three times during it to find out out views – we’re still waiting to hear.

In the blurb provided, it states that capping now does work and that “You’ll never pay more than the price of an equivalent Day Travelcard” – but bus journeys don’t count towards that cap.

Monday to Sunday capping

It then goes onto explain that a ‘Key difference from Oyster’ is that if you make a lot of journeys with your contactless payment card from Monday to Sunday, you will be capped at the same rate as an equivalent 7 day Travelcard.


08 Jul 14

Exit the Tube & Oyster Errors

ExittheTubeRoundedLogo152x152And we have TWO new Apps to tell you about, here’s the first one …

Ever wanted to have the handy exit information that Station Master provides, but… just wanted that?  It’s something that people have asked for and so today we’ve got a brand new App that gives it to you.

With the fancy new carriage graphics that came out with the latest version of Station Master, today you can download ‘Exit the Tube’ which is JUST the exact carriage and door exit information for every Underground, Overground and DLR station in London.

Exit the Tube is available on the App Store now.

(And it runs on iOS 5.1 and iOS 6 for all you iOS 7 refuseniks out there!)

OysterErrorsRoundedLogo152x152And here’s the second brand new App which we’ve got for you this morning – a simple lookup for errors that you can get on an Oyster Barrier Gate when you touch in or out – When this happens, an error number flashes up on the gate, and if you make a note of that number, you can look it up using our App to see what it means.

e.g. the most common error number is ‘36‘ – which means you don’t have enough credit on your Pay-As-You-Go balance, but there any many others too! And we’ve got them all listed here in the App for you.

Oyster Errors is available here on the App Store now.

(For iOS 7 only.)

20 Jun 14

Emergency Bus Fares

Emergency Fare TicketWith the buses going cash-free from the 6th July and the fact that you cannot guarantee that your contactless payment card might be rejected as payment if your Oyster card has run out of credit, TfL have this weekend (8th June) introduced One more bus journey.

If you have no credit or pass on your Oyster card, you will now be able to make one more journey on a bus.  You then have to top up your pay as you go credit to clear the negative balance before you can use your Oyster card again.

As this Station Master boarded a bus today, we saw “One more bus journey” in action.  The Oyster card of the passenger in front made the ticket machine emit an unfamiliar sequence of beeps and the ticket machine display read “Emergency Fare £1.45”.

The driver called the passenger back and printed out a paper ticket, which the passenger kindly allowed us to photograph.

11 Jun 14


Commuter Club

Commuter Club

We stumbled across a travel-related website at the weekend that we’d not seen before, and had one of those “We can’t believe no one’s done this before”, type moments – and so thought it worthy of a mention.

It’s CommuterClub, and they’re out to save you money on your Oyster card buy letting you buy an annual travel card – but at a reduced rate.

It’s always cheaper to buy an annual travelcard than it is to pay for weeklies or monthlies, but of course you have to shell out all that money in advance – something which not everyone has. There are a few large corporate companies out there that let you have a ‘season ticket loan’ that let you spread the cost of your travel from your salary – but if your workplace doesn’t do it, then this could be the thing for you instead.

You can sign up for an annual travel card, and pay back CommuterClub at a monthly rate – working out cheaper for you than if you normally buy weekly or monthly tickets.  They have a page where you can work out how much you can save depending on what zone you regularly travel in from .

You can also cancel at anytime, so you’re not committed to the whole year – and you’ll save time too never having to go back to the ticket machine or ticket office to buy another weekly every week or month, you can just go for a whole year instead!


09 Jun 14

Oyster Overcharge

Those of you with Pay as you go Oyster cards might want to scrutinise your online account or weekly statements a little bit more carefully after we came across a glitch in the system that resulted in us being overcharged, even though we had touched-in and touched-out correctly on the bus and Tube all day on Sunday.

£9,15This Station Master was more than a little perplexed when a £9.15 daily total popped up for what should have been a £7.70 fare cap for the day – the last journey of the day on the bus being charged at 10 pence.

TfL don’t have a £9.15 price cap!

Neither we, nor TfL customer service, could explain it, but we realised the difference between £9.15 and £7.70 is £1.45 – the cost of a bus journey, which TfL refunded immediately.

Something had obviously gone wrong somewhere and a bus journey hadn’t been counted towards the cap for the day.  (A clock wrong on the ticket machine on the bus perhaps?)

If you don’t check your Oyster online account or weekly statements regularly, now might be the time to have a quick check, just to be sure. With Contactless payments being piloted right now too, we hope this was a one off glitch!

19 May 14

TfL Contactless Cards Pilot

contactlesscardWe previously reported, that Barclays had sent us an email invite to the contactless payment pilot and had some questions about the way the system would work.

Having been through the signup process and read some of the associated information, things are now a little clearer.  However, we’ve been unable to use contactless as a method of payment so far (although we do know someone who has been successful), and have discovered that it will be of little practical use compared to your current Oyster card.

The sign up process is very straight forward.  Log into the new TfL portal with your existing email address and password that you use for Oyster (or create a new account if you haven’t already got one).  We presume this portal will replace the current Oyster one in time.

Our existing Oyster card was already loaded, although clicking it linked in to the existing Oyster portal.ContactlessOysterCard




Adding a contactless payment card is as simple as clicking the “Add a contactless payment card” button and filling in your card details which are checked with your bank.




Once you’ve completed this step your card is listed, and you are “Ready for travel”.ContactlessCardList

When we actually tried to use our contactless card, though, we got Error 89 from the ticket barriers – “Unknown card type“.  Fair enough, this is a pilot (and not available on the buses, as they already have contactless payment) and we expected some initial problems.

We went back and read the small print in our invite from Barclays, where we discovered that we have to wait for a welcome pack and a membership card to arrive. “It’s important that you wait for your personalised membership card from TfL before making contactless payments for travel. You’ll need to carry your membership card with you whenever you travel, as you may need to show it to a member of staff if asked.“.

Another card to carry? we think that’s ridiculous.  It’s all down to revenue protection. TfL tell us that you’ll get an £80 penalty fare if you are using contactless payment and are not able to show your membership card!

Since we wrote this, TfL have tweeted that “You won’t need a membership card, this is just part of the initial pilot and serves to identify the user.”

But a big issue of contactless payment that we think will make it of little practical use day-to-day compared to your Oyster card is the security check.

If you’ve used contactless for payments in a shop, you’ll already know that once have used your card contactlessly a certain number of times (in our case it seemed to be the 4th time – however we were rejected on the next transaction too!) the contactless payment is rejected and you have to revert to the normal Chip & PIN transaction (which resets the count).  How do you do this on a bus (where contactless payments are already accepted) or on a Tube ticket gate?

You can’t.

Even TfL’s information on contactless for buses acknowledges this shortcoming and offers a solution:

“From time to time your card issuer requires that you enter your PIN as a security check. If this happens when you are on a bus you will not be able to use your contactless payment card to pay for your journey”

Use a different way to pay for the journey. Make a chip and PIN transaction at another retailer and try your card again on another bus journey. If necessary, contact your card issuer for advice”

That’s very unhelpful!

So, if you were expecting to replace your Oyster card with a contactless card, forget it.  You will never be sure when your payment card will be rejected because of the security check.  I asked TfL about this and they said that they “don’t recommend you use contactless all the time” and that contactless wasn’t a replacement for Oyster.  They also said that if I wanted to use contactless to travel I would have to ‘keep track of how much I’d spent and reset the card in a cash machine‘ (or by a purchase).

In practice this is going to be almost impossible, and completely impractical if you wanted to dedicate a contactless card to travel in London instead of Oyster!

ContactlessJourneyAlthough we have been unsuccessful using contactless payment and have not received membership cards yet, we do know someone who has, and he kindly sent us a screenshot of it.

He also received a membership card.



(Update: 12th June 2014)

We’ve since heard, unofficially, that when contactless payments do actually go live properly, that the bus and tube card readers will not actually perform a transaction on your card (perhaps a £0.00 “free” transaction to get the card details).  Your card details and journeys will then be processed in TfL’s system and a charge made on a weekly basis, with your Monday to Sunday fares rolled up to the best value ticket for that week.

This will get around the bank security check problem presently seen on the buses.  The card issuers have been working very closely with TfL to make sure that this all works properly as they see this as the “killer application” of contactless payments.

The Oyster card, despite rumours, is not going to go away entirely as there will need to be an alternative method for people without contactless bank cards (children etc) to be able to travel, but the majority of us should be able to carry one less card around.


13 May 14

Contactless Cards

This is what a an email invitation looks like from Barclays to make their new credit card work with TfL’s contactless payment system.

Register your new Contactless Card

Register your new Contactless Card

Barclays recently withdrew their ‘One Pulse’ credit card, which was a credit card, contactless payment card and Oyster card all in one, and have replaced with, err .. a credit card and contactless payment card.

What we’re still not clear on though is why you have to register it to make it work. Our contactless cards already work on the buses without having to do anything to them, but does this mean to get a contactless payment card to work on the tube you have to register it?


01 May 14

No more cash on buses

It’s been coming for a while, but now a date has been set.  You’ll no longer be able to use cash to pay for bus fares as from Sunday July 6th from this year.  You will either have to use an Oyster card, or a bank card that also works as a contactless card, that will charge the same ‘cash’ fare as an Oyster card.

What happens if a contactless bank card fails to work though? In our experience, we see plenty of people wave an Oyster card at the reader on a bus, but it gives the error-beep rather than the ‘happy beep’ and the driver in most cases does nothing about it and the person rides the bus anyway.  Will it be easier to say ‘Oh my bank card should work’ and pretend a non-contactless card is a contactless one, as there are many differing designs of bank cards, but Oyster cards all look the same.

Contactless on buses

Contactless on buses



11 Apr 14

Clash of the Cards

Station Master got an interesting piece of mail in the post today from his credit card who informed him that their Oyster-enabled Credit Card (OnePulse) was being phased out and would no longer be valid for use after June of this year.

“It’s being replaced with a new Freedom Credit Card!” said the literature – which sounded a bit close to a ‘Freedom Pass’ for my liking (we’re not that old .. yet), but also highlighted the fact that it would still be able to be used for Contactless journeys on buses (as already) and tube journeys when the system is enabled later in the year.

Card Clash

Card Clash

But TfL are worried that this is going to lead to Card Clash – so much so that signs have been appearing at tube stations already, even though the system isn’t due to go live yet.  If you have an Oyster card AND contactless card in the same wallet, and you don’t get an read error on the gate, you could easily fall foul of touching in with one, and touching out with another – leading you to have an incomplete journey on BOTH cards, which (at peak hours) could cost you £8.50 for each – seventeen quid in total!   Well done TfL for pointing this out in advance, but it’s not going to stop it happening, and there are going to be some very angry people when this happens to them.

The solution? Keep your Oyster card in a separate wallet (like, we already do) and not in your main wallet or purse, to avoid the clash happening…

02 Mar 14